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Chinese rocket debris re-enters atmosphere above Indian Ocean

A Long March 5B rocket carrying China's Tianhe space station core module lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan Province, China, in April 2021. Another rocket ws launched last wee,k and debris fell into the Indian Ocean on Saturday. File Photo by Matjaz Tancic/EPA-EFE
A Long March 5B rocket carrying China's Tianhe space station core module lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan Province, China, in April 2021. Another rocket ws launched last wee,k and debris fell into the Indian Ocean on Saturday. File Photo by Matjaz Tancic/EPA-EFE

July 31 (UPI) -- The debris from a Chinese rocket re-entered the atmosphere above the Indian Ocean, days after officials said the space junk was uncontrollably falling back to Earth.

The U.S. Space Command said in a statement that China's Long March 5B re-entered over the Indian Ocean about 12:45 p.m. EDT Saturday.

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"The wreckage of the final stage of the Long March 5B Yao-3 carrier rocket has re-entered the atmosphere," the Chinese Manned Space Agency said in post to Weibo.

The Chinese Manned Space Agency said that most of the debris burned up and was destroyed during re-entry as it fell above the Sulu Sea, which is between the Philippines and the island of Borneo.

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The National Space Agency in Malaysia, which shares Borneo with the countries of Indonesia and Brunei, said in a statement that the "burning debris" crossed Malaysian airspace and was detected in several areas including above the state of Sarawak.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson rebuked China on Twitter for not sharing specific trajectory information for the debris falling back to Earth.

"All space-faring nations should follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance to allow reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk, especially for heavy-lift vehicles, like the Long March 5B, which carry a significant risk of loss of life and property," he said.

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"Doing so is critical to the responsible use of space and to ensure the safety of people here on Earth."

The Long March 5B rocket, weighing 23 tons, was launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on Hainan Island in China at 2:22 p.m. local time July 24 and delivered a new module to the under-construction Tiangong Space Station.

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